The UK’s finance minister has defended his wife after it was reported that she holds the non-domiciled status that exempts her from paying UK tax on foreign income.
In an interview with The Sun, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said his wife Akshata Murty had not “done anything wrong” and her financial arrangement “would not be at all relevant” if she wasn’t married to him.
Murty, daughter of an Indian multi-billionaire, is an Indian citizen and has been granted non-dom status—meaning her permanent home is considered outside of the UK—although she currently lives in 11 Downing Street with her husband.
It means the heiress and businesswoman, who married Sunak in 2009, is only liable to pay UK tax on her British income, but not on foreign income—unless it is brought into the UK—until her residence in the UK reaches 15 years.
Individuals can choose to give up their non-dom status and be considered British for tax purposes if they intend to permanently live in the UK.
After The Independent broke the story on Murty’s tax status, the UK’s main opposition Labour Party on Thursday urged Sunak to give an explanation, with party leader Sir Keir Starmer calling it “breathtaking hypocrisy” when “the chancellor has imposed tax rise after tax rise on working people and he’s said time and again there’s no alternative, we’ve got no option.”
Sunak told The Sun that Murty “ultimately will want to” return to India as her parents get older and that she had paid UK tax on”every single penny that she earns in the UK” and full taxes elsewhere on “every penny that she earns internationally, for example in India.”
“That is how the system works for people like her who are international who have moved here,” Sunak said. “The rates don’t make a difference.”
A spokeswoman for Murty previously said Murty had been treated as non-domiciled for UK tax purposes because of her Indian citizenship, and that “India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously.”
Sunak said he could appreciate that “people find this situation confusing,” but “It wouldn’t be reasonable or fair to ask her to sever ties with her country because she happens to be married to me.”
“She’s a private citizen, and of course, I support my wife’s choices. She’s not her husband’s possession,” Sunak said, adding Murty was “100 percent doing everything this country asks of her.”
“She hasn’t broken any rules. She’s followed the letter of the law. And if she was living here and didn’t just happen to be married to me this obviously would not be at all relevant,” he added.
Sunak said he appreciated that the non-dom status had been used by British people to avoid paying taxes but said “that’s not the case here.”
The Conservative chancellor also said that “to smear my wife to get at me is awful.”
Asked if he believed his family were victims of a Labour smear campaign, Sunak told The Sun: “Yeah.”
Starmer’s office has not responded to The Epoch Time’s request for comment at the time of publishing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office has also “categorically” denied anonymous allegations that it’s the source of the leaks against Sunak.
PA Media quoted an unnamed source from the Labour Party while The Telegraph quoted an unnamed source that it said was Sunak’s ally, saying 10 Downing Street leaked the story to undermine Sunak. During Johnson’s leadership crisis, Sunak had been widely regarded as the prime minister’s potential replacement.
A spokeswoman for Johnson said, “It is categorically untrue that No 10 is behind the briefings. The prime minister and chancellor are united.”
PA Media quoted an unnamed source from the Treasury saying “neither Rishi nor anyone in his team believes this is coming from No 10.”
The Epoch Times reached out to the Treasury for comment.